Once in a while I walk to work, which takes me about 35 minutes. It's a lovely walk, actually, half of which is right next to a lake. I've often noticed that people are a bit more friendly in the morning around the lake--oftentimes people nod or say hello, and it looks like the 'regulars' all know each other. I did notice something interesting and strange today, while walking. Two separate couples passed me going the opposite direction. In each case, they were older couples, both people of Chinese descent, and the man was walking about 5 steps ahead of the woman. It's odd to me, and I was beginning to think about it in terms of gender and race, when a third couple passed me with the same configuration, except that both of these people were of some sort of European descent. Now, I don't know the actual cultural histories of any of these people--could be they were all born and raised in the US, or that they were all recent immigrants, or any combination in between. I think it says something about me that I began to attribute something to racial/cultural reasons, when in fact it may have little to do with race--in fact, it may just have more to do with age or class than race.
Also, there is a somehow similar tradition I've recognized ever since I was a kid in the US--if two couples are walking together, the men will often walk in front and the women behind.
Still, it bothers me when I see couples like this. Not that they should all be walking hand-in-hand getting smoochy--just that I (so far) have never seen a couple where the man walked behind, so it smacks of patriarchy no matter how one looks at it. In once case, I actually felt sorry for the man, because he was obviously straining, with a cane, and possibly older than his wife, straining to walk faster than he might want to, because his wife was in obviously better shape than he was...why on earth not let her lead? Ah, the standards of male masculinity.